I wrote this up for a workshop I led on Transforming Negative Career Experiences, and I thought others might be interested as well.
1) Say something positive about the boss, job, company, etc.
• I have a lot of respect for my former boss. She is very hard working, and incredibly knowledgeable. But we just weren’t a good fit and I realized that I could be a greater contribution somewhere else.
• My boss is a very kind and lovely person, but we had different approaches to _______.
2) Answer the question honestly, but don’t go into detail unless asked for more.
• It wasn’t a good fit.
• After ____ years things the job requirements changed and it stopped being a good fit for my skills and abilities.
• I was very successful in the job for ____ years and received ____ awards (very high evaluations, etc.) But then the office was restructured and I realized it was time to move on.
• It wasn’t a great situation.
• I have always loved learning new things, and over time my interests evolved. Now I have identified the thing that I am truly passionate about, namely _______.
3) If you need to provide more detail, tell them something you have learned or some way you have grown from the situation.
• I’m actually very lucky that I was laid off, because even though it was challenging at first, the experience taught me _____.
• I realize now that I could have communicated better with my boss. I had a sense that maybe something was bothering him, but I assumed that if there was an issue he would tell me. Now I realize that it is up to me to ask people directly for feedback and check in periodically to make sure that they continue to be happy with my work.
4) Address the elephant in the room head-on.
• I know the conventional wisdom is to stay in a job for at least a year, but once I realized that it was a mistake to have taken the job in the first place I thought it would be better to correct the error quickly and move on. I know that training a new person talks a lot of time and resources and didn’t think it would be fair to waste everyone’s time.
• There was a miscommunication in the hiring process – and I ended up in a different job than the one I thought I was being hired to do.